My mum, the inspiration for Counselling4Carers

After an eye opening conversation with a friend a couple of days ago where we talked about our passions, inspirations and drives for the work we do I have spent an emotional day reigniting my Counselling4Carers work, I set it up in memory of my mum, Gladys Knott in 2013, and I finally feel in a place where I can really honor her by making this service a working reality. Grief is a unique process and it takes on a different form every time we experience it, and it has taken me this long to feel that I can now commit to this important area of my counselling work. Up until now it has tugged at that hole in my heart where mum resides far too much for me to be able to put my grief to one side in order for me to really support carers who are living with the kind of issues that they need support with. The counselling process is all about the client, and their journey, and I believe it would have been unethical for me to really develop this until I was in a place where I could dedicate myself to the work in a way that kept myself and those carers I work with emotionally safe and supported.


mum and my brother Tim
My mum – my inspiration

I lost my mum to kidney failure in January 2013 after a long period of illness and multiple health issues not least of which was her stroke in February 2012 which left her unable to open her eyes, so not although technically blind she was as good as, even with the strips of micropore we used to keep her eyelids open so she could only see for short periods of time. The stroke damaged her nerve supply to the muscles of her eyes and eyelids so her eyes could see but appeared to hate each other and look in opposite directions when they were held open. This led to mum feeling sea sick and confused, so we had to alternate them so she could see at least for a little while however blurry it was, it was better than the eternal darkness she had been experiencing. But throughout this she remained strong and calm, initially at least never resenting the hand god had dealt her, just accepting of the fact that this was her new reality. She was inspirational and I miss her every day, but I know she will be proud of my life path since she passed away. She had multiple health issues that made her care particularly difficult, including Addision’s disease, COPD and severe arthritis (she had been on a waiting list for a new hip for over 4 years when she died but had never been well enough to survive the procedure).

Her blindness did leave her anxious about being alone in the house, understandable in the circumstances really and I became pretty much house bound alongside her, I ended up ordering all our groceries online so she didn’t have to fret while I was gone. The only time that she actively encouraged me to leave the house or actually leave her side was whenever I needed to see a counselling client or when I was manning the open line for my local branch of Cruse (helping support the bereaved).

I was already qualified when my mum had her stroke in 2012 and had a small private practice. She always supported my desire to help others and I believe it was because it reflected her own life’s mission. The one major regret I know she had was she had wanted to be a missionary in Israel but married and had myself and my two older brothers, by the time we were grown up enough my father was so unwell that she was not able to leave for any great length of time she did manage a week out there for a visit and it was one of her finest and most precious memories. My father died when he was only 65 which in an ideal world would have allowed my mum to follow her dream even for a few months or years but sadly she had her first stroke 4 weeks before he died, which although she recovered from really well, left her unable to fly and along with her own previous health complications her dreams of being a missionary died too. mum and sam

Now although she never actually did missionary work in the way she wished to, she touched so many lives with her infinite compassion and her ability to forgive and forget without judgment or resentment, (and there had been a lot to forgive within our family and my parents work but that’s a story for another day). As the vicar said in his eulogy she was a missionary in her own right leading by example and throughout her life touching many more souls than she was ever aware of. She was always a quiet woman who often listened and observed without any superfluous words or inane or irrelevant comments, but she touched so many peoples lives with her gentle advice and her naturally calming persona. I am in awe of her and the more I reflect back about her life which was by no means simple or pain or fear free the more I admire her.

So I believe she saw what I was doing as a continuation of her passion for helping others, I am her legacy and I aim to use her example as a constant bench mark for me to work towards. So once again I dedicate this area of my work to my mum, Mrs Gladys Knott you will always be in my heart.

For more info please go to www.counselling4carers.co.uk or my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/counselling4carers

I have also set up a Bereaved Carers Support Group and aim to run support groups locally in the very near future https://www.facebook.com/groups/1637371809839056/

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Trouble sleeping? Part 2

If you have problems staying asleep…

If you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t drift back to sleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, relaxing activity like stretching, reading or doing crossword puzzles. Staring at the ceiling will not help and just leads to excess frustration and a negative cycle of thoughts which maintain your lack of sleep.

If you wake up worrying about a particular problem then take your pen and paper and write, just allow yourself to write anything that comes into your head, it may not provide the solution immediately but if its all out on paper your anxiety should be reduced, just keep writing until you have run out of thoughts.

If you wake up in a panic, perhaps from a bad dream a wonderful affirmation to recite to yourself is I am safe and I am protected. Dreams cannot hurt you but in those first few seconds of wakefulness they can appear to be very real and the fear can be overwhelming.

Avoid having any electronics turned on in your bedroom such as ipads or iphones the blue light emitted can disrupt sleep.

If you regularly wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep please contact your GP and discuss this with them, there may be a medical reason for this e.g. sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or chronic pain which will need investigating and specialist treatment.

I sleep ok, but I am waking up exhausted, I feel like I haven’t had any rest at all?

There are a variety of causes of this type of problem, ranging from sleep apnea to too many dreams and your brain not shutting off due to heightened levels of stress. Most commonly though I would associate this type of unrefreshing sleep which is essentially a light sleep that, even after a full night, doesn’t leave you rested with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, or chronic pain conditions where restorative sleep simply eludes sufferers, they often report waking up exhausted and feeling as if they haven’t slept at all — no matter how long they were actually asleep. The consequences of unrefreshing sleep go beyond mere tiredness. These include unrelenting fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration and other  cognitive impairment  (brain fog), increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia) and general disability. Once again I would recommend seeking medical advice to discover the underlying cause before discussing treatment for this.

Having difficulty getting to sleep? Change your habits…..

Firstly and I know this may seem obvious but do not go to bed until you feel sleepy. If yu are not tired then al that will happen is that you toss and turn, and become anxious about the fact you can’t get to sleep. If you wait until you are tired, that pleasant kind of snoozy feeling then go to bed you will be far more likely to drift off and have restorative sleep. This may take practice especially if you have a routine already and you are concerned that staying up late may make you feel worse, but on balance spending hours laying in bed staring at the ceiling and becoming fretful is just as debilitating.

Get into a routine….

Try to use the hour before going to bed to
unwind and prepare for sleep. In the same way that you would not expect a child to go straight from an exciting game to bed, most adults need to wind down. For a child, a bedtime routine helps with the winding down process, for example, bathtime, pyjamas, teeth brushed, story, then bed. The same is true for
adults.

But I’m in bed and I can’t sleep….

If you have not fallen asleep within 30 minutes get up and have a malty drink. Listen to relaxing music, read a relaxing book until you feel snoozy.

Make sure your bed is associated with sleep.
The only exception to this is making love, the act of which can in fact help promote a good nights sleep.

Avoid smoking immediately before bed as it is a stimulant.

Although having a nightcap is often suggested as a way to help you sleep, and certainly if you have a night out with a few beers or glasses of wine you may fall asleep (pass out) quickly, the quality of sleep is non restorative. Therefore avoid drinking alcohol is you wish to gain healthy sleep.

Try deep breathing… focus on the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale… then start by breathing in for a count of 5 then out for a count of 7. Keep doing this until you fall asleep, you should find that you gradually stop consciously counting and just relax into the breathing cycle which will help you drift off to sleep.

If you are feeling very stressed, worried or upset you can develop this routine further by imagining that as you exhale, choose a colour (I use deep brown) this colour represents all your worries and concerns, and as you exhale you can see all your negative thoughts and feelings leave your body. Then choose another colour to inhale you are breathing in (I use pale blue as its very calming) and as you breathe in you are filling your lungs and in turn your whole body with relaxing and calming feelings.

Another adaptation of this is to breathe out all the negative and stressful feelings from every part of your body, e.g. hands, arms, neck, brain by naming them as you go, then inhaling the positive colour with its relaxing nature and then saying goodnight to each body part, I would suggest you start from your toes and work up.

What can you do during the day to improve your sleep patterns.

Gradually increasing your daytime activity and exercise, will help but don’t exercise too near to bedtime or you will still be hyped up.

Try and avoid sleeping for long periods during the day as it can disrupt your sleep cycle, have you ever fallen asleep for an hour or two in the afternoon and woke up feeling worse for it? That’s because your body has a natural sleep cycle and hormones and chemicals within your body reflect this cycle so when its disrupted everything is a little out of whack and make you feel awful. Catnaps can be useful but no longer than 20 minutes at a time.

If you have had unexpected sleep deprivation e.g. no sleep for 36 or 48 hours due to a family emergency for example, then when you do sleep try not to recover all your sleep in one go, it is better to have 30 minutes extra every day for a few days than try and sleep an additional 8 hours straight off.

These simple guidelines really can improve your sleep but they take time. Please be patient, your hard work will pay off although it can take many weeks to develop new sleep habits.

Thoughts and more thoughts and do cat have thoughts?

Fluffy asleep
Fluffy sleeping this morning

I was laying in bed this morning with Fluffy laying across my side purring and settling down for a snooze, after her habitual 5 minutes of head butting, meowing at the top of her tiny lungs and demanding to be loved, and she got me wondering… She seems so relaxed and chilled and happy, I wonder if cats heads are full of the thoughts that we sometimes get overwhelmed with?

I had been snoozing and considering all the things I aim to achieve in my life, to have a successful clinic or four or five where I can help make a difference in many peoples lives, writing my own biography as its been a bit of an interesting ride to get me to where I am today, writing for others, expanding my business to include support in other more practical ways, the groups I am in the process of setting up and planning, what am I going to do with the most recently completed diploma in clinical weight loss, whether or nor my husband had got to work safely, what a beautiful day it is and how much I’d love to take the day off and sunbathe, planning my day which will mainly be designing my website, then focusing on my clients this afternoon and this evening, writing a shopping list in my head, deciding that myseFluffy lf and a friend would make the best Pinky and the Brain pair ever, being thankful that minions were created because they always make me smile, recollecting my evening last night when I got to spend it with my three closest friends, all of whom trained with me; contemplating all of our journeys that led to today from when we met in 2009, between us we have experienced divorce, breast cancer, two diagnoses of fibromyalgia, two weddings, the care and death of two of our mothers, new building businesses and closed building businesses, new love, numerous house moves, living with the after effects of chemo, new jobs and working with our new realities and counting myself blessed that I have such amazing friends and that we always provide unquestioning support and love with no expectations just pure love and friendship, and my personal favourite, how long before my legs start working enough for me to get up! as I am one of the two in our group with fibro………

and Fluffy….. is she really just thinking about needing my love in the moment and is she really content just to lull herself to sleep to the sound of my heart beat as her purrs fall into pace with my breathing, or does she have a similar barrage of thoughts and feelings, I know one thing for sure, she never ever has a problem getting to sleep!

Welcome to my online world

My name is Ruth and I am a counsellor & psychotherapist based in Suffolk, UK, and this is my blog.

I share my home with my husband, Stuart who is my inspiration throughout all that I do, and it is only with his support that I was able to train and consequently am now able to work in the way that I do. I am blessed to have him in my life. Our home is never completely quiet we have 6 cats, a marine fish tank, 4 tropical fish tanks and my personal favourite tank which contains my musk turtle Hercules and my blue lobster Lobbie, and 2 outside ponds.

We love the tranquility that the fishes provide, even the gentle hum of the filters and their constant flow of water are soothing, our home is our haven away from everyday stresses and strains of the outside world, it is our sanctuary.

The only thing that occasionally disturbs this haven is our clowder of cats when they are being mischievous or on days like today when they are all inside and dotted on various surfaces to keep away from the rain, and the inevitable fight for the prize spot on top of the fish tank where its warm and cozy which happens as they take it in turns to be cat supreme!

I am looking forward to sharing my day to day thoughts and adventures of my many animals.